Pre-Post Holiday Strategies for E-Commerce Marketers

What you learn from the fourth-quarter sales surge makes a successful New Year.

If you manage your company's e-commerce marketing, your holiday sales strategies were planned long ago. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Pull-Your-Hair-Out Wednesday. … As the hectic days of December progress, you're monitoring the various services and programs you've deployed, making sure that your managers are tweaking daily spend when necessary at Google AdWords, staying on top of any A/B testing still occurring in e-mail marketing or banner ads for the newer products and monitoring page positions on-site of best-selling items.

These nerve-wracking, waiting-for-results days of December can be put to excellent use by planning the post-holiday activities that will drive the most successful 2006.

The holiday period in our culture is, for most, a culture of abundance — more food than any other time of year, more parties, more cards and gifts. For the Web marketer, the best gift is the abundance of data. This data presents a rich opportunity for understanding more about your Web site, your products and your customers. You will have experienced the biggest surge in online activity and sales for the entire year.

Dig into the data methodically and use what you learn to plan a bigger and better 2006. In fact, if you accomplish this quickly, you can apply what you've learned to bolster online sales for the typically slower periods of January through March.

The next most worthwhile investment of time is reviewing your marketing programs to make sure they represent an integrated marketing mindset. While integrated marketing is fast becoming a buzzword, what does it really mean?

In general, integrated marketing is:

1. Support all your marketing channels, understanding that each channel affects the other, i.e., TV ads drive people to the Web, the Web drives people into the stores, etc.

2. Understand and leverage the strengths and weaknesses of each channel. For example, a radio ad can aid brand recognition but can't reach out and touch the individual customer; a customized e-mail message can.

3. Communicate brand consistently across all channels.

4. Consistently use cross-channel ROI data-sharing.

What integrated marketing is for your specific business will depend to a large degree on what data is collected within each channel, how it is analyzed and how that analysis is communicated to and used by all other marketing departments. The ability of your marketing teams to recognize the full value of their individual data, along with their willingness to analyze, summarize and share it with other teams, will be the key for getting the full value out of all your overall marketing plan.

For example, does your in-house or outsourced search engine marketing team provide campaign ROI data to the keyword level? And, if so, how is that data shared with and incorporated by your other marketing professionals? Consider this: if your Google AdWords listing for “pink cashmere sweaters” converts at a higher rate of sale online than searches for “lavender cashmere sweaters,” is the paid search team recognizing the value of that type of information to other company or outsourced marketing teams? Might the next e-mail blast on cashmere sweaters feature the pink version for higher response rates? Might your Web manager switch the pink cashmere thumbnail with the lavender larger size image on the cashmere sweater page for higher response rates?

Another good question to ponder and re-ponder during the waning days of 2005: What are you going to spend and where are you going to spend in 2006? Sure, you already have a budget set and, hopefully approved, but what movement should take place within that budget?

Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester Research pointed out in a presentation last month to the New England Direct Marketing Association that the money marketers are spending in media buys is not matching up with the time consumers spend with various media. “Ad spending is out of sync with consumer behavior,” she said, pointing out that in 2004 consumers spent 34 percent of their media time online while marketers spent only 6 percent of their media budget online.

As you think about New Year's resolutions for your business, it might be time to sharpen your pencil and change some of your marketing budget numbers to better meet the consumer where they're shopping now — and to allow an increased online budget to better inform your other marketing initiatives by embracing an more fully integrated marketing approach in 2006.

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